Sharing the Key Tools with parents and under fives

Session outlines to introduce the Key Tools to parents and carers with little ones.

We know you’d love to share the tools of Parenting for Faith to equip parents and carers, but when they have little ones, sometimes doing the whole course together isn’t realistic.

Here are some outlines for how you could share a little bit about each tool in anything from 10 - 25 minutes and it’s designed to be doable with babies, toddlers and preschoolers all in the room too. Each section gives you a rough idea of how long it will take, so pick and mix to fit your time slot and group. It could be used in a daytime small group, midweek Bible study or toddler group where most of the parents and carers are Christian or open to faith. It could also be an add-on before or after a Sunday service, as part of an all-age slot/service or used in a creche if parents stay with their children. 

Every church is different and you will need to adapt this for your community but we hope these outlines provide a useful starting point. There are suggestions for props, videos and activities but they are all optional - adapt to whatever you have available. Depending on who turns up and children’s attention spans, you may also want to skip sections or move them around, be ready to be flexible. Anna also explains these in a seminar you can view here.

Click on the buttons below to jump to the session outline that you'd like:

Session 1: Creating Windows

Session 2: Framing

Session 3: Unwinding

Session 4: Chat and catch

Session 5: Surfing the waves

Next steps

These tools are just a jumping off point, so be ready to give next steps so people can continue growing their skills and putting these tools into practice.

Some groups have chosen to do the Parenting for Faith course by watching the videos in advance and then using the leader and participant guides to discuss together when they meet up. You can read tips from a group like this here.

You could also let people know that the videos are available free for anyone to use, so people could watch them on their own or with a partner or friend as and when they get time at home. It could be something for the night feeds or whilst sorting the washing.

We also sometimes run watch parties of the course, so that people can join in watching from home and comment in the online discussion. If you follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or sign up for our emails, you’ll hear when our next one is. 

 

Session 1: Creating Windows

Welcome (3 - 5 mins)

  • Encourage people to gather, you could use a welcome song or rhyme.
  • Introduce yourself and the idea of these slots.
  • Help people feel relaxed to do whatever works for them - children can sit with them or wander off and play. Point out toilets, changing and feeding facilities if anyone is unfamiliar with this.
  • Share a little of what you know about Parenting for Faith or show the intro video.
  • Reinforce that as parents and carers they are perfectly positioned to help their child meet and know God and these sessions will give them tools to help them do that even better.
  • Explain we’re going to look at five Key Tools (show five fingers, wiggle thumb for no. 1) to be used in the everyday. You don’t need anything special to be able to use them. If you have a child’s toy toolbox this is a nice visual illustration here. You could print out pictures of the key tool icons and pull the relevant one out each session.

Introduce tool (2 - 3 mins)

  • Explain today we are talking about creating windows.
  • Ask the under fives - What do we know about windows? You could use a simple prop of a cardboard box cut out to look like a window and hold it up. Explain that you can see through them (play peek-a-boo with the prop if you want). If you look through someone else’s window you might learn something about them.
  • Explain a bit more for the adults - we want our children to have a personal relationship but they need to know what that looks like. So much of our life with God is hidden. Creating windows is really a simple tweak to make it more visible.

Watch video (2 mins)

  • Play this video. If you want to download them, the easiest way to do this is off our Facebook page.
  • You could give a question to help engage the children like ‘See if you can spot how the mummy is feeling and how the little boy is feeling. Show me with your face’.

Share some ideas for what this looks like with under fives (2 - 3 mins)

  • Try doing anything you already do to connect with God where they can see or hear it.
  • Under fives tend to be very sensitive to music - try having worship music on around the house.
  • Could you leave your Bible out or show them today’s verse on an app on your phone?
  • Try praying out loud - when they are strapped in the car or buggy is great for this as you know they’re not going to run off!
  • Process life with God out loud too including feelings, for example ‘I’m sad because I heard my friend’s ill but I know God will help me pray for her’.
  • Share ideas from your experience and ask for any other ideas they have.

Give them an opportunity to try it out (2 - 3 mins)

This will work well in some groups and less so in others, try to judge the atmosphere of the group to see if this would be helpful or not.

  • Ask the adults to try talking to God out loud. Not a joint 'together prayer' but the sort of back and forth you have with God which is normally just in your head. You could put some music on to help people feel less self-conscious. 
  • Ask the under fives to listen to their grown ups. Ask them ‘What is your grown up doing?’ and ‘Is that something you could do?’

Offer some next steps (2 - 3 mins)

  • Remind them that this is just one of five tools, come back to discover the next one.
  • For examples and answers to common questions about creating windows they can go to parentingforfaith.org/creating-windows or for more depth they can watch session 1 of the course.
  • Or direct them to parentingforfaith.org more generally for all five tools, the Parenting for Faith course, a weekly podcast and monthly Facebook Live webinars (these are at 8pm on the teenth Tuesday of the month for parents of under fives).
  • Explain you’ll be available to answer questions, discuss ideas and pray for or with them.

 

Session 2: Framing

Welcome (2 - 3 mins)

  • Encourage people to gather, if you used a welcome song or rhyme in session one, use the same one.
  • Introduce yourself and the idea of these slots if anyone is new.
  • Remind them that we are looking at five Key Tools (show five fingers and wiggle index finger for no. 2) to be used in the everyday. You don’t need anything special to be able to use them. If using the toy toolbox as an illustration, pull out the framing icon.

Introduce tool (2 - 3 mins)

  • Explain today we are talking about framing.
  • Ask ‘If you see a frame around something, what does it mean?’ It tells you where to look, draws your attention to something, there may also be a label or sign which tells you more. You could use an old picture frame as a prop or make one out of card.
  • Make a frame with thumb and index finger (both hands) - see if you can frame your foot, your grown up’s face or the screen.
  • Explain a bit more for the adults - we do this with other areas all the time, for example 'hold my hand across the road because the cars could hurt you', but we often forget to do it in the spiritual. We need to learn to point out what God is doing at home, preschool and church so they can understand and spot him too. 

Watch video (2 mins)

  • Play this video. If you want to download it, the easiest way to do that is off our Facebook page.
  • You could give a question to help engage the children like ‘Which Paw Patrol character is on the boy’s tummy? What do you think his daddy is showing him?’.

Share some ideas for what this looks like with under fives (2 - 3 mins)

  • At this age, framing is very linked to creating windows, so you will often naturally frame after you show them something
  • Share with them that the Bible is special, important and true (and different from other stories).
  • Explain how the Bible - helps us understand how God works in the world and how he works with us. When you are sharing Bible stories, say what’s happening and why (for example, When David walked out to fight Goliath, he felt strong because he knew God was with him; talk about feelings not just what happens, for example I wonder how God felt when he saw Daniel praying to him every day.
  • Explore their questions.
  • Point things out that you want them to notice in everyday life.
  • Share ideas from your experience and ask for any other ideas they have.

Give them an opportunity to try it out (2 - 3 mins)

This will work well in some groups and less so in others, try to judge the atmosphere of the group to see if this would be helpful or not.

  • Read a story from a children’s Bible together and pause and talk about where you could add in some framing.
  • Or encourage the parents to share with their child what is happening when we are singing in church.
  • Or ask the children for a question (or parents for a question that a child has asked recently) and work through the four steps together.

Offer some next steps (2 - 3 mins)

  • Remind them that this is just one of five tools, come back to discover the next one.
  • For examples and answers to common questions about framing they can go to parentingforfaith.org/framing or for more depth they can watch session two of the course.
  • Or direct them to parentingforfaith.org more generally for all five tools, the Parenting for Faith course, a weekly podcast and monthly Facebook Live webinars (these are at 8pm on the teenth Monday of the month for parents of under fives).
  • Explain you’ll be available to answer questions, discuss ideas and pray for or with them.

 

Session 3: Unwinding

Welcome (2 - 3 mins)

  • Encourage people to gather, if you’ve used a welcome song or rhyme before, use the same one.
  • Introduce yourself and the idea of these slots if anyone is new.
  • Remind them that we are looking at five Key Tools (show five fingers and wiggle middle finger for no. 3) to be used in the everyday. You don’t need anything special to be able to use them. If using the toy toolbox as an illustration, pull out the unwinding icon.

Introduce tool (2 - 3 mins)

  • Explain today we are talking about unwinding.
  • For a visual illustration you could throw a ball of wool to different people as you’re talking and get them to throw it back (for health and safety, make sure that it breaks easily and doesn’t go around anyone’s neck). If doing this with older children or in an all age service, you could play the human knot game in groups.  We get ideas about God from all sorts of different places and people (our parents, our friends, our grandparents, the telly, things we hear in church). Sometimes these can get muddled and we end up with an unbalanced view of God and some confused ideas.
  • Explain a bit more for the adults -  unwinding is about spotting where there is a wrong view, or just one that focuses too much on one aspect of God’s character and gently unwinding it, so they get to discover more of who God really is. 

Watch video (2 mins)

  • Play this video. If you want to download it, the easiest way to do that is off our Facebook page.
  • You could give a question to help engage the children like ‘This video is about a really big boy who’s worried about something, is there anything that makes you feel worried?’
  • If you plan to do the ‘give them an opportunity to try it out’ section, now is a great time to give the kids pens and paper and ask them to draw what they think God looks like. 

Share some ideas for what this looks like with under 5s (2 - 3 mins)

  • For little people, there is often a link in their head between what they do and who God is. You could show this video, or try it out with the children you have with you. Ask ‘when you are angry, is God still loving?’,‘Yes he is’. ‘When you are kind is God still powerful?’, ‘yes He is!’
  • Use a broad range of stories that give a balanced view of God.
  • Ask for any other ideas they have or share from your own experience.

Give them an opportunity to try it out (2 - 3 mins)

This will work well in some groups and less so in others, try to judge the atmosphere of the group to see if this would be helpful or not.

  • If the children have drawn pictures of God, ask if any of them would like to share what they’ve drawn. Pay attention to the words they use to describe him or what they have included in their picture. You could also ask them for any words they know about God and see what they come up with.
  • Ask the adults if they only had three words to describe God, what would they be? Write them on a flipchart as people share, so you can see them.
  • From both these activities, look together at which aspects of God’s character we tend to focus on and which we have missed out. Ask people to consider what their view of God is? Is the main focus on his comfort, his power, his mercy or his justice? Be aware that this will be reflected in the way you talk about God to your child.

Offer some next steps (2 - 3 mins)

  • Remind them that this is just one of five tools, come back to discover the next one.
  • For examples and answers to common questions about unwinding they can go to parentingforfaith.org/unwinding or for more depth they can watch session three of the course.
  • Or direct them to parentingforfaith.org more generally for all five tools, the Parenting for Faith course, a weekly podcast and monthly Facebook Live webinars (these are at 8pm on the teenth Monday of the month for parents of under fives).
  • Explain you’ll be available to answer questions, discuss ideas and pray for or with them.

 

Session 4: Chat and catch

Welcome (2 - 3 mins)

  • Encourage people to gather, if you’ve used a welcome song or rhyme before, use the same one.
  • Introduce yourself and the idea of these slots if anyone is new.
  • Remind them that we are looking at five Key Tools  to be used in the everyday (show five fingers and wiggle ring finger for no. 4). You don’t need anything special to be able to use them. If using the toy toolbox as an illustration, pull out the chat and catch icon.

Introduce tool (2 - 3 mins)

  • Explain today we are talking about chat and catch which is just another way of saying prayer.
  • You could use a phone or walkie talkies as props. Ask the children what they like chatting about. Share that they can chat to God about all those things too. 
  • Explain a bit more for adults - We use the term chat because we want our children to feel able to talk to God about anything, anytime, anywhere. The suggestion is that it is a bit more relaxed than prayer which children sometimes assume is linked to a specific place, time or way of doing things.
  • Use a ball as a prop and explain that a conversation is a bit boring if we just talk one way. Explain that God has things for us but we need to be ready to catch them. Could illustrate by throwing the ball to an adult who’s not ready to catch and then giving them warning and say ‘this time I want you to be ready to catch what I have for you’ and throw the ball to them. 
  • Explain a bit more for adults - God is speaking to us all the time but we need to learn to catch from him. We can do that with our eyes and ears, dreams, bodies and minds. When we talk about listening to God or hearing from him, children can sometimes assume we mean an audible voice but actually God can talk to us in so many different ways. 

Watch video (2 mins)

  • Play this video. If you want to download it, the easiest way to do that is off our Facebook page.
  • You could give a question to help engage the children like ‘What do you think these children like doing with God?’ 

Share some ideas for what this looks like with under fives (2 - 3 mins)

  • They don’t have to do it in their heads, under fives often find this tricky. Give them an option to whisper into their hands or a cushion or pillow if that’s easier.
  • It doesn’t have to be verbal - they can draw things they want to show God or show him with their face how they are feeling.
  • Weave conversational prayer into whatever you are doing - point out things that interest them or that you see as you’re playing or out and about. 
  • Use good, bad, happy and sad moments as prompts to chat to God and catch from him - under fives have plenty of these throughout the day!
  • You could show one of these videos - this one talks about how to help them chat and catch as they play and this has some ideas to get them started chatting to God.

Give them an opportunity to try it out (2 - 3 mins)

  • Encourage them to get comfy and close their eyes. Ask their adults to cuddle their little person or have a hand on them, so that they know where they are. 
  • Offer some chat and catch prompts, there is a video which talks you through how to do this on the church side of our website.

Offer some next steps (2 - 3 mins)

 

Session 5: Surfing the waves

Welcome (2 - 3 mins)

  • Encourage people to gather, if you’ve used a welcome song or rhyme before, use the same one.
  • Introduce yourself and the idea of these slots if anyone is new.
  • Remind them that we are looking at five Key Tools  to be used in the everyday (show five fingers and wiggle little finger for no. 5). You don’t need anything special to be able to use them. If using the toy toolbox as an illustration, pull out the surfing the waves icon.

Introduce tool (2 - 3 mins)

  • Explain today we are talking about surfing the waves.
  • Ask the children, ‘Who knows what surfing is? Can you pretend to be on a surf board?’ When you’re surfing you have to watch and see when the wave is coming so you can ride it. If you have a surfboard or bodyboard this would be a great prop.
  • Explain a bit more for the adults - kids will engage with different things at different times, we don’t have to jump on every possible opportunity but we don’t want to miss what God is doing either. Surfing the waves helps you spot what God is doing and journey alongside your child.

Watch video (2 mins)

  • Play this video. If you want to download it, the easiest way to do that is off our Facebook page.
  • You could give a question to help engage the children like ‘The little sister really likes God songs. What is your favourite God song?’

Share some ideas for what this looks like with under fives (2 - 3 mins)

  • Keep an eye on what they engage with. Be aware of their questions, ideas and  what they are looking at. What sort of role do they play in their stories or games?
  • Keep in mind this isn’t just for overtly spiritual stuff like reading the Bible, they might really like helping others for example.
  • Explain there is another tool on the website called the six-stage circle which will help them when they spot a wave to work out what some good next steps might be.

Give them an opportunity to try it out (2 - 3 mins)

  • Give them a moment to think then ask about their examples of waves their child might be interested in.
  • Together brainstorm ideas for how to support that. Again, you might find the six stage circle concept helpful. 

Offer some next steps (2 - 3 mins)

  • Remind them that this is just one of five tools, they can recap the others online.
  • For examples and answers to common questions about chat and catch they can go to parentingforfaith.org/surfing-waves or for more depth they can watch session six of the course.
  • Or direct them to parentingforfaith.org more generally for all five tools, the Parenting for Faith course, a weekly podcast and monthly Facebook Live webinars (these are at 8pm on the teenth Monday of the month for parents of under fives).
  • Explain you’ll be available to answer questions, discuss ideas and pray for or with them.
Image acknowledgements

Image from pxhere.com